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Breaking, breaking: Science writer challenges conventional wisdom

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John Horgan writer Here.

John Horgan is one of the most colorful and thought-provoking science writers of the last several decades. He defies pigeonholing and enjoys challenging conventional wisdom. In the best Socratic tradition, he has been a gadfly to the scientific community, constantly urging it to be more self-reflective and to strive for sober understanding of the scientific enterprise—its prospects, possibilities, and pitfalls.

Excerpt.

John Horgan:
I still stand by the thesis of The End of Science, that the era of truly monumental, paradigmatic discoveries has ended. In fact, the argument seems even more compelling today than it did 20 years ago when the book was first published. My guess is that some of the great remaining mysteries—How, exactly, did the universe begin? How did life begin on earth? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? How does a brain make a mind?—will turn out to be intractable. But I hope I’m proven wrong, and we can certainly never stop trying to solve these mysteries. And even if I’m right about these huge mysteries, I’m still hopeful that science—and especially applied science—can improve our lives in countless ways by discovering better medicines, energy sources and so on.

Erik Larson:
You’ve been openly skeptical of fashionable trends in computer science, such as “Big Data.” What, really, is the problem with finding patterns in and drawing conclusions from Big Data, whether in commercial contexts or even in the pursuit of scientific knowledge? With regard to science, is this confirmation of your ongoing concern about the dominance of mere technicalities of science in the absence of novel, deep theory?

John Horgan:
Big DataThe rhetoric of Big Data recycles that of chaos and complexity, two previous faddish fields that in The End of Science I lumped together under the term “chaoplexity” and criticized harshly. Advances in digital technology have been astonishing; they have transformed my profession, journalism, as well as science and other endeavors. But I get annoyed when Big Data boosters—like the chaoplexity folks before them—talk about computers as though they are magic wands that will instantly solve all our practical and intellectual problems. More.

Hey, discuss.

On a personal note: I (O’Leary for News) have often criticized science writers as mere pom poms for “sciencey-ness.” And—let’s face it—many are.  Journalism is supposed to be a field that encourages criticism, not adulation Science journalism lags in that area.

Horgan always struck me as different. For example, he correctly identified the multiverse nonsense as, well, nonsense. I’ve no objection in principle except that a mystic could have thunk it all up on his prayer mat six thousand years ago. So how did it ever get classed as science?

The big advance is that they finally lost the darn mat?

Those of us who think science is better represented by, say, the recent Pluto flyby are in Horgan’s debt.

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10 Replies to “Breaking, breaking: Science writer challenges conventional wisdom

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    the era of truly monumental, paradigmatic discoveries has ended

    Most materialists will agree with this. All science is doing now is filling in some minor details. They’ll disagree with this, however …

    … the great remaining mysteries How, exactly, did the universe begin? How did life begin on earth? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? How does a brain make a mind?—will turn out to be intractable.

    Those are not mysteries in the materialist view. They’ve already been solved. Science is merely a boring recitation of more ‘facts’ about the power of chance accidents. This renders everything meaningless and reducible to nothing – thus nihilism.

    Where IDists reject the premise that science has ended is in the monumental and paradigmatic scientific findings which support the existence of Intelligent Design and thus The End of Materialism.

    That’s why ID is a life-giving project. It infuses a living energy into the dead science of materialism, and actually restores science to what it should be — the discovery of meaning within the cosmos and a greater appreciation for the sacred quality of human life.

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    My guess is that some of the great remaining mysteries—How, exactly, did the universe begin? How did life begin on earth? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? How does a brain make a mind?—will turn out to be intractable.

    Maybe I’m just pessimistic, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if many of these big problems remain unsolved forever. Specifically, we’re a long way from answering “how did the universe begin?”, if the question even makes sense. I’m betting there will still be many revolutionary discoveries in cosmology, although they won’t come as rapidly as those that were made in the 20th century, simply because we need bigger and more expensive instruments to push back the frontiers of research.

  3. 3
    Mapou says:

    John Horgan:
    I still stand by the thesis of The End of Science, that the era of truly monumental, paradigmatic discoveries has ended.

    This is so untrue, in the not-even-wrong category.

  4. 4
    cantor says:

    the era of truly monumental, paradigmatic discoveries has ended

    If he said that 20 years ago when he wrote his book, I’d say he was wrong. Experimental violation of Leggett’s equations is monumental and paradigmatic.

    .

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Today is Dr. Hugh Ross’s 70th birthday!

    Beyond the Cosmos- Dr. Hugh Ross at Leesburg Community Church – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIBIrjOOQC0
    Dr. Hugh Ross discusses how recent scientific discoveries prove God exists outside of time and space and how God reveals His power and glory through the creation of an expanding universe. From March 15, 2015

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    John Horgan:
    I still stand by the thesis of The End of Science, that the era of truly monumental, paradigmatic discoveries has ended.

    Maybe, but it sounds too much like this memorable quote from Lord Kelvin for comfort

    “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now, All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”

    That last was from 1900.

  7. 7
    Zachriel says:

    John Horgan: I still stand by the thesis of The End of Science, that the era of truly monumental, paradigmatic discoveries has ended.

    He says just before the flood bursts.

    Change occurs a little at a time, with a few big changes, and the occasional revolution.

  8. 8
    Zachriel says:

    John Horgan: How did life begin on earth? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe?

    Finding extraterrestrial life will probably help answer how life began. Currently N = 1. When N > 1, then answers may be forthcoming.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Zach states:

    “Finding extraterrestrial life will probably help answer how life began. Currently N = 1. When N > 1, then answers may be forthcoming.”

    If the higher ‘non-local’ dimension of quantum mechanics, i.e. the beyond space and time dimension of quantum mechanics, is included in our search for ‘extraterrestrial life’, then ‘extraterrestrial life’ has already been found by science.

    A Short Survey Of Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness
    Excerpt: Putting all the lines of evidence together the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:
    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.
    Four intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect)
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uLcJUgLm1vwFyjwcbwuYP0bK6k8mXy-of990HudzduI/edit

    The following video gives us a small insight as to what it would be like to exist in a higher dimension:

    Dr. Quantum in Flatland – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5yxZ5I-zsE&feature=player_detailpage#t=25
    of note: The preceding video is the lead off video on the outreach page of Dr. Anton Zeilinger’s quantum group in Vienna:
    https://vcq.quantum.at/outreach/multimedia/videos.html

    Interestingly, a tunnel to a higher dimension, similar to the ‘Flatland’ illustration, is observed in visualizing what would happen if a hypothetical observer were to approach the speed of light.
    Please note, at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light, (Of note: This following video was made by two Australian University Physics Professors with a supercomputer.).

    Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQnHTKZBTI4

    Moreover, we have testimonies from Near Death Experiencers testifying to these ‘higher dimensional attributes’ that are witnessed in Special Relativity. Specifically, we have testimony for both the ‘eternal’ attribute and the ‘tunnel’ attribute of Special Relativity.

    Here is testimony of the ‘tunnel’ attribute of special relativity:

    “Very often as they’re moving through the tunnel, there’s a very bright mystical light … not like a light we’re used to in our earthly lives. People call this mystical light, brilliant like a million times a million suns…”
    – Jeffrey Long M.D. – has studied NDE’s extensively

    “I started to move toward the light. The way I moved, the physics, was completely different than it is here on Earth. It was something I had never felt before and never felt since. It was a whole different sensation of motion. I obviously wasn’t walking or skipping or crawling. I was not floating. I was flowing. I was flowing toward the light. I was accelerating and I knew I was accelerating, but then again, I didn’t really feel the acceleration. I just knew I was accelerating toward the light. Again, the physics was different – the physics of motion of time, space, travel. It was completely different in that tunnel, than it is here on Earth. I came out into the light and when I came out into the light, I realized that I was in heaven.”
    Barbara Springer – Near Death Experience – The Tunnel

    And here is testimony from a few Near Death Experiencers experiencing the ‘eternal’ attribute of special relativity:

    ‘Earthly time has no meaning in the spirit realm. There is no concept of before or after. Everything – past, present, future – exists simultaneously.’
    – Kimberly Clark Sharp – NDE Experiencer

    ‘There is no way to tell whether minutes, hours or years go by. Existence is the only reality and it is inseparable from the eternal now.’
    – John Star – NDE Experiencer

    ‘In the ‘spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it’s going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.’
    In The Presence Of Almighty God – The NDE of Mickey Robinson

    Verse and Music:

    Hebrews 11:3
    By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

    All I Need – Bethany Dillon
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zl_82XUH1Ik

  10. 10
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    Finding extraterrestrial life will probably help answer how life began.

    Yeah cuz finding other henges shed so much light on how Stonehenge was built. 🙄

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